to the local level is one
law the BTA is considering.
(Photo © J. Maus)
At their Member Forum last week, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance shared a list of nine proposals they’re evaluating for the 2011 legislative session.
Here’s their draft list of topics currently under consideration:
- Vehicular Homicide
- Local control over speed limits
- Insurance coverage for cyclists
- Bicyclists’ right to ride in the travel lane
- Crash reporting standards
- Continuation of travel lanes through intersections
- Enforcing the Vulnerable User Law
- Improving citizen citation process
- Driver education
According to the BTA, their Legislative Committee will select three or four of these proposals to devote their 2011 lobbying efforts to.
Here is some background on a few of these proposals.
They BTA unveiled their proposal for a new vehicular homicide law back in January. In a nutshell, their proposal would break the infraction into two levels of severity. The first, “For drivers who kill while violating a traffic law when their drivers’ license is suspended or revoked” would be a felony crime punishable by 6-10 months in prison. The other one, for “drivers who kill while violating a traffic law” would become a misdemeanor and violators could get probation and up to one year in jail.
Oregon is one of only four states without a vehicular homicide law. In 2009, with the help of citizen activist Mary O’Donnell, the BTA got some traction in their vehicular homicide effort but it never reached a floor vote and stalled in committee.
Local control of speed limits
This idea is gaining momentum. Currently, the Oregon Department of Transportation controls speed limits — even on roads managed by the City of Portland (for a primer on ODOT and speed limits, read this). With very different perspectives and priorities on traffic engineering, there’s a growing sense that Portland should have the authority to set its own speed limits.
Mayor Sam Adams is very interested in changing the status quo on this issue. In May of 2009 he sent a letter to ODOT outlining a new approach to how speed limits are set.
ODOT in our region is currently managed by Jason Tell, a man who has been very engaged and progressive on traffic safety issues. In a recent interview, he told me he’d be “open to the idea” of giving Portland local control. I’m also aware that Mayor Adams and his staff have been meeting with ODOT around this issue so I wouldn’t be surprised if something comes of that prior to the 2011 session. Stay tuned.
“Bicyclists’ right to ride in the travel lane”
This is related to suggestions by some in the community to abolish Oregon’s “mandatory sidepath law.” Current Oregon traffic law states that people on bicycles must ride as “far to the right as practicable” and use a bike lane when one is present There are of course exceptions, but as PBOT installs more separated facilities like cycle tracks, some people are concerned that they’ll be legally forced to use them.
Continuation of travel lanes through intersections
This is a response to the case back in December where a traffic court judge dismissed a “failure to yield to a bicyclist in a bike lane” citation because the bike lane striping disappeared through an intersection. The ruling was summarily denounced as a fluke, but it did highlight one of the many legal grey areas in bike law. A legislative fix would be to simply amend the language of the statute so that it’s clear bike lanes still exist through an intersection — even if they are dropped inside of it.
Absent from this list is any new law that would seek to raise revenue for bike infrastructure (one idea some activists are throwing around is a tax on studded tire sales). Also absent is the Idaho Stop law that the BTA worked very hard for — but did not succeed in passing last session.
In order to prepare for the 2011 session, the BTA will work to get their short-list of priorities finalized in the coming months.
What legal changes would you like to see them go for? Which of the ones listed above are you most excited about? Is there something not mentioned here that you’d like to have considered?
BTA communications coordinator Margaux Mennesson got in touch to share another idea they’ve got on the table…
“Funding for active transportation – Statewide advocate Susan Peithman is working with partners to explore alternatives for increasing funding for construction of projects that would help increase the use of walking and bicycling as a transportation mode. This includes looking at ongoing funding sources for the Urban Trails Fund, which was created in 2009 with a one-time $1 million starting seed.”